Herriot, James

About the author

James Herriot (1916–95), the pseudonym used by Alfred Wight, was best known for his autobiographical books about his early veterinary career. He had long wanted to write, but pressure of work had stopped him until his wife, Joan, challenged him to start. His early efforts were rejected, but once he started to write about what he knew (and made it funny), he hit a rich vein. If Only They Could Talk initially did not sell fast, but once it and its sequel, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, were published in one volume in America under the title All Creatures Great and Small, sales took off. The BBC made a long running television series, All Creatures Great and Small, and a film also appeared, with the same title. Channel 5 have now (2023) remade the series.

James Herriott wrote eight autobiographical works in all, but the first four in particular are hugely funny, rich in character and the entirely ridiculous side of life.

James Herriot was not a horse vet: his colleague Donald Sinclair (Siegfried Farnon in the books) ran the equine side of the practice, and James extracted some comic mileage in his writing out of his own lack of affinity with the horse, though he did treat horses successfully. It would have been difficult for him to avoid treating the horse: he first worked in the post war period when horses were still used in agriculture. His veterinary training had majored on the horse, but the world was changing, with mechanisation taking over, a change Herriot’s books reflected .

Several episodes from his stories were adapted and appeared as children’s picture books, illustrated by Ruth Brown, including Moses the Kitten, Only One Woof and The Christmas Day Kitten, as well as Bonny’s Big Day. This, the one book of his which could count as a pony book, is about a retired heavy horse. The illustrations are delightful.

Finding the book
The book is easy to find in all its editions.

Links and sources
Wikipedia on James Herriot
The James Herriot Centre
A fansite on James Herriot


Bonny’s Big Day

Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1987
St Martin’s Press, New York, 1987
Picture Piper edn, Pan, London, 1987, pb

(Story I think originally appeared in It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet.)

James goes to treat a lame mare: Mr Skipton has kept his horses in retirement for the last
12 years. They’re really pets, so James suggests Mr Skipton enters one of the mares, Bonny, in the Pets’ Class in Darrowby Show.